We don't need to be prophets or sons and daughters of prophets to realize that the world is turned upside down. The cliff-hanging posture of the world today—terrorism, rogue nations with nuclear weapons, predictions of environmental catastrophe, governmental and business corruption—spells the end of our civilization as we know it. To make sense of it all we must first understand God's plan for the future, outlined in the book of Daniel and related Scripture.
Daniel, Volume 1: God's Man for the Moment
Things are not always what they seem…sometimes they’re worse!
Captivity for Daniel and his friends was a piece of cake compared with Babylonian barbecue—with you on the menu—or catnip for the king’s cats. Things can always be worse, but, as Chuck Swindoll reminds us, God’s sovereignty can cool the flames and close the lion’s mouth in our lives.
The prophet Daniel is unquestionably one of the most remarkable men not only in the Bible but also in all of Jewish history. The book that bears his name traces his life from his teenage years through his days past the age of 80. For 70 years, Daniel lived in captivity (605-536 BC) while serving in the metropolitan capital city of Babylon as prime minister. But when the Jews returned to the Promised Land, Daniel's life, work, and ministry drew to an end.
Startled from his sleep by a nightmarish dream, King Nebuchadnezzar called his magicians, conjurers, and sorcerers together and put them to a test. Would they be able to relate the dream and give its interpretation? Each of these learned men failed. In a fit of rage, the king ordered the death of all the wise men of Babylon—even those who had not been asked about the dream, such as Daniel and his three friends. But with wisdom, Daniel asked for time and God gave the answer.
Nebuchadnezzar may have been anxious to know the interpretation of his dream, but he probably winced when Daniel told him that Babylon would not endure for eternity. How did Daniel know? The Lord revealed to him the king's dream of a great statue made of precious metals and clay and of a rock that destroyed the statue and grew into a mountain. This was God's blueprint for the future—a blueprint encompassing the whole world, beginning with Babylon.
Why is it the righteous are made to suffer? When we have been obedient to God, why do we often have to endure fiery ordeals? Where is God during these times? And what of His fairness and justice? These are natural questions for those who suffer unjustly. Daniel's three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—could have asked similar questions. They literally went through a fiery trial, but they discovered that God was in their midst. And this truth is a comfort when the suffering and questions come.
Daniel chapter 4 is one of the most unusual chapters in the Bible. King Nebuchadnezzar had another dream. But this one proved to be his undoing and then his renewing. Prideful as a man, he became insane and lived like a beast until he humbled himself and praised God with some of the most eloquent words ever to fall from human lips.
Courage is a foundation virtue, because it assures the validity of all other virtues. Without courage, convictions become corrupt. But with courage, convictions are honoured. Courage is that quality of controlling and directing fear into positive action. And though Daniel had already proved himself a man of courage, new reserves of valour were needed to stand up to a profane king and deliver a message of destruction.
Of all the great men and women in the Bible, Daniel certainly ranks as one of the greatest. Without dispute he was a man of courage. But courage was not what made him great. History is filled with courageous devils. Daniel was great because he was exactly who he appeared to be—a man of unassailable integrity. Though this would prove dangerous, Daniel would not compromise his honour.
Whatever the eye perceives, it doesn't see it all. This is true not only in seeing but also in understanding what God is doing in the lives of His children. Our limited perspective leads us to the false assumption that the godly should not suffer, that God should prevent them from enduring trials. But what we do not see from our vantage point is how God uses the patient endurance of His suffering servants to bring others to Christ.